Dr. Bonnie Dunbar // Public Lecture

Exploring Space: from the 3rd grade to the Space Shuttle

Saturday 2:00 pm :: Hawking Auditorium


Dr. Dunbar became a NASA astronaut in August 1981. Her technical assignments have included verification of Shuttle flight software at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), serving as a member of the Flight Crew Equipment Control Board, participation as a member of the Astronaut Office Science Support Group, and supporting operational development of the remote manipulator system (RMS). She has served as chief of the Mission Development Branch. In 1993, Dr. Dunbar served as Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In February 1994, she lived in Star City, Russia, for 13-months training as a back-up crew member for a 3-month flight on the Russian Space Station, Mir. In March 1995, she was certified by the Russian Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center as qualified to fly on long duration Mir Space Station flights. From October 1995 to November 1996, she was detailed to the NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate as Assistant Director where she was responsible for chairing the International Space Station Training Readiness Reviews, and facilitating Russian/American operations and training strategies. From June 1998 to July 2003 she served as Assistant Director to the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) with a focus on University Research. From October 2003 until January 2005, she was Deputy Associate Director for Biological Sciences and Applications. From January–September 2005 she served as Associate Director, Technology Integration and Risk Management. Dr. Dunbar retired from NASA in September 2005 to serve as President and CEO of the Seattle Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.


EXPERIENCE: Following graduation in 1971, Dr. Dunbar worked for Boeing Computer Services for two years as a systems analyst. From 1973 to 1975, she conducted research for her master’s thesis in the field of mechanisms and kinetics of ionic diffusion in sodium beta-alumina. In 1975, she conducted research at Harwell Laboratories in Oxford, England. Her work there involved the wetting behavior of liquids on solid substrates. Following her work in England, she accepted a senior research engineer position with Rockwell International Space Division in Downey, California. Her responsibilities included developing equipment and processes for the manufacture of the Space Shuttle thermal protection system in Palmdale, California. She also represented Rockwell International as a member of the Dr. Kraft Ehricke evaluation committee on prospective space industrialization concepts. Dr. Dunbar completed her doctorate at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Her multi-disciplinary dissertation (materials science and physiology) involved evaluating the effects of simulated space flight on bone strength and fracture toughness. Dr. Dunbar has served as an adjunct assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Dr. Dunbar accepted a position as a payload officer/flight controller at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1978. She served as a guidance and navigation officer/flight controller for the Skylab reentry mission in 1979 and was subsequently designated project officer/payload officer for the integration of several Space Shuttle payloads.

A veteran of five space flights, Dr. Dunbar has logged more than 1,208 hours (50 days) in space. She served as a mission specialist on STS 61-A in 1985, STS-32 in 1990, and STS-71 in 1995, and was the Payload Commander on STS-50 in 1992, and STS-89 in 1998.

Dr. Bonnie Dunbar
Dr. Bonnie Dunbar
NASA Astronaut


Department of Physics & Astronomy
USA Science & Engineering Festival Science Festival Alliance